A few years ago, I decided to start publishing low content books on CreateSpace (now Amazon KDP Print). Coming from a fiction publishing background with over 100 romance novels under my belt (and a couple of New York Times bestsellers!), I thought I knew everything there was about selling books on Amazon through their self-publishing platform.
What I discovered when I branched out and began selling low (or no) content books blew me away. While I was making 6-figures a year with my romance books, they took me months to write. So even though I was making a great income from fiction, I was always dealing with deadlines, writer’s block and burn out. I needed a break. Or at the very least, a side hustle to break up the monotony.
Enter low content books.
With low content books like planners, coloring books, sketchbooks, journals and notebooks, I can publish dozens of books a week without having to spend more than a few hours creating high-quality interiors and covers. I use PowerPoint to design the templates and Photoshop to create my covers.
If you aren’t interested in doing either, you can easily outsource covers to experienced designers from freelance sites like Upwork and purchase pre-made low content interiors from sites like my Profitable Journals shop that allow you to upload ready-made books on the fly. And yes, they come with commercial-use rights. 🙂
But the question is: can you really make money publishing low content books?
The following interview outlines how a coder-turned-low content publisher is making thousands of dollars a month with low content books. No experience and no background in publishing. What started out as a simple side hustle has quickly turned into a full-time, somewhat passive income for him.
Here’s how he’s doing it.
Meet Jake: coder by day, low content publishing rockstar by night.
Hey, Jake! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us and answer some of the questions from our Low Content Publishing Facebook group! We really appreciate it. Let’s jump right into it because I know you have a lot to say.
Question: A lot of people are publishing journals and planners on Amazon KDP, yet they aren’t seeing the sales that they were expecting. What do you feel you are doing differently?
Answer: Hi Kate! Happy to talk to you, considering you’re who got me into this thing in the first place!
What I’m doing differently. Well, one of the things I do that I don’t see a lot of other people doing is register a domain that directs potential buyers to Amazon.
Now for this to be effective, you need to create an Author page via Author Central, add in a short bio (write it from the perspective of the creator who uses journals in your every day life), and claim at least 5-10 journals so you’re filling up your “shop”.
When I first started publishing low content books, I used a ton of different pen names based on each main niche I was in. So for example, if I purchased rights to a gardening journal, I would use a pen name that included a keyword targeted towards the kind of people who would buy that particular book (example: Gardening Planners, Garden Journals, etc.).
After creating a plan to publish 500 journals in 6 months or less, I realized that it served me best to choose just 6-10 pen names and publish most of my journals under one of those umbrella “companies” because it helped me to create a system.
That way, I could also create a series of journals catering to specific niches and demonstrate to my audience that I know what they want, rather than uploading a ton of misc journals spanning dozens of niches. That turns buyers off. They don’t think you know who they are or what they want if you’re trying to be all things to everyone.
Question: Can you elaborate on how you choose your pen names?
Answer: Sure! All of my pen names include a low-content-publishing based keyword such as: planners, journals, organizers, calendars, etc. So for example, and this is just as an example; I don’t know if anyone actually uses this pen name, but a name like Power Planners, or Comical Journals would be great pen names for specific niches while still being broad enough names to incorporate all kinds of books.
Tip: Make sure you run the name through Amazon just to make sure that no one else is using it. You don’t want to muddy the waters or confuse people by publishing low content books under a pen name that someone else has already established.
Question: What did you do after deciding what pen names to use?
Answer: After I chose a handful of pen names, I registered a domain name for each major niche. Sometimes I couldn’t get the domain for the initial pen name and in that case I would choose something else. I felt it was really important to secure the exact domains for the pen names I wanted to focus on.
By registering domains that direct buyers to specific Author Central pages and to my own landing pages, I’m able to gain some control over my traffic – at least within my own marketing campaigns, which is otherwise difficult to track since you don’t get any information relating to your Amazon customers.
Question: How soon after you started publishing did you start seeing sales?
Answer: I started selling journals in the first week I published, but my first month generated only a little over $400 in sales, however it didn’t take long before I hit my first $5k month.
The last few months have been mind-blowing with a high of just over $20,000 in December and a major win of almost $27,000 in January-Feb. I sold a LOT of new year resolution type journals (everything from weight loss to specific self-improvement planners), and yearly planners in that month and a lot of what were probably Christmas gifts the month before.
Tip: Choose one style of weight loss, such as keto or LCHF and create a journal just for those people. While general weight loss journals also sell, if you cater to a specific weight loss STYLE or PROGRAM, you’ll sell far more and can hijack traffic by using keywords relating to those diets. Purchase a weight loss journal from someone and simply add in recipes pertaining to the diet program you choose. It’s that easy.
I don’t expect to be able to maintain the $20k range every single month and that’s okay! I was just blown away that I was able to get my income up that high because until then 5K per month was my ultimate goal. Seeing just how much money I can actually make in low content publishing solidified my game plan, and now I know what is actually possible.
Question: What do you feel was most responsible for the surge of sales? Do you think it was simply tapping into holiday markets or did you do anything else to boost your income?
Answer: Great question. The holiday season definitely helped but since February was also a great month, I think it had more to do with the advertising I started to play around with.
I swore I would never spend a dime on marketing until I hit $5k a month consistently. Before that my money went into covers, templates and investing in a few tools. After I saw my sales increasing, it made sense to dig into what advertising avenues were available to me.
I started thinking about how traditional books are marketed, as well as how indie authors promote their new releases. I knew a bit of this from being part of your team and being behind the scenes of some of your previous book launches. I figured those same channels would be a great place to start when figuring out how to promote my low content books.
Question: What advertising channels did you use?
Answer: I searched for a few niche blogs in my niche who ran a newsletter. I subscribed first to see the kind of content they put out, but to also determine whether they promoted products.
I was able to secure a couple of featured spots throughout the month of December and January and my campaigns were a huge success. It’s really easy to find blogs in almost any niche and newsletter advertising is not only more affordable than PPC campaigns, but since they’re dedicated to a home-grown audience, the traffic is high quality. And it’s just easier to do. I can’t be bothered to learn Facebook advertising or spend a lot of time analyzing click-through rates or adjusting ads. I’d rather spend that time researching low content markets and uploading books.
Question: That’s great! Do you plan to continue advertising in newsletters?
Answer: Oh, most definitely. Going forward, the plan is to continue to find small, yet focused newsletters that I can squeeze my way into. I spent less than $400 on advertising and the ROI was just staggering. Plus, I was able to build a list so that Amazon isn’t the end-all to my business, but rather the entry of what I hope will become a very successful and long-term funnel.
I also want to buy ad space on the blogs themselves just so I can get back-links to my Amazon listings because don’t forget, people search for journals and planners on Google as much as they do Amazon. People seem to think that all they have to do is upload books to Amazon, sit back and cash the checks. That may be true for established authors in fiction and non-fiction markets, but with low content books, you have to give it a boost.
Trust me, while there may be exceptions, most of the low content publishers that I know who are pulling in 6-figures a year on Amazon are doing something behind the scenes. It just doesn’t have to be complicated and once you get that momentum going, you can pull back on marketing and focus on building up that brand.
I’ve been lucky to be invited into a really small and private group on Facebook where a lot of the top sellers discuss sales reports and marketing and everyone in there is doing something extra. They’re also doing everything they can to spot trends early on, rather than going with the flow. There can only be so many “Get Shit Done” journals!
Question: Do you have any advice for those who aren’t sure of how to spot trends or find those golden niches?
Answer: Talk to people in your life both on and offline so you can understand their passions and interests. You’ll also learn to speak their lingo which is really important.
Kate, we’ve talked about a couple of our most profitable niches recently on a previous call and a lot of those came from speaking with our kids and our friends. Teens have their own language and you have to cater to that on your cover as well as inside the journal, if you want them to buy from you. Same goes for single Mom’s who struggle with different parenting problems than single Dad’s do. The more I know my audience, the more money I make. It’s as simple as that.
I know it sounds basic, but it’s the best place to start and you can find some really cool niches that aren’t being catered to by the mainstream publishing houses.
When it comes to marketing, if you have a journal geared towards parenting, reach out to Mom bloggers and see if they offer paid newsletter advertising. Chances are they do.
Bloggers are always looking for new tools and resources to share with their audience and not a lot of them are promoting journals and planners in their newsletters, so it’s a great way to offer their audience something different.
Just make sure you have some sort of tracking associated with your campaign so you can see what newsletters are working for you. There are plenty of free tools out there that make it easy to track your click-through’s like the Pretty Links WordPress plugin available here: https://wordpress.org/plugins/pretty-link/
Eventually, I’m going to start reaching out to YouTubers in my niche and see what they’d charge me to create a review video once I send them a free copy of some of my top selling journals (plus pay them for the content). Unboxing videos are always popular and so I want to tap into their existing audience with a few sponsored placements.
Question: Speak the lingo! You’re right, that’s really important. One of my best selling journals caters to teenagers and the catchphrase on the cover isn’t something I would have known was a “thing” if it wasn’t for talking to my teens. And if someone doesn’t have kids, talk to their friends who do. Ask them what their kids are into, what they want for Christmas/birthdays/etc.
So, when it came to effectively advertising in blogger’s newsletters, what was your strategy in terms of directing subscribers?
Answer: This should have been a no-brainer, really, but I ended up testing out 2 different strategies for some reason.
With the first newsletter I advertised in, I sent people directly to my BookLinker page which doesn’t have an opt-in form or anything, it just creates a universal link for all the Amazon stores.
The second newsletter sent visitors to my landing page, which has an opt-in form and a digital giveaway that they get only after subscribing, as well as links to my Amazon books. That way if someone didn’t buy a journal, I had a chance of following up with them later. Save the sale, so to speak.
I was able to add quite a few subscribers to my newsletter following that strategy, so going forward I’m always going to direct traffic to my landing page versus direct to Amazon.
There are a few advertising networks like https://www.buysellads.com that are set up to connect advertisers with publishers, but I prefer to take a grassroots approach and search for blogs in my niche by using Google and social media.
That way I’m able to connect with small, yet active blogs that aren’t diluting their content with a ton of ads. Then mine stands out! They’re also usually more affordable than going through some advertising company.
I am also in the process of setting up a simple ad campaign with a blogger where I’m offering free physical copies of one of my journals, but because this actually costs me money I’m limiting how often I do those. I prefer digital giveaways that don’t cost me a dime.
Also, I’m only doing this after qualifying the traffic from having ran an ad in their newsletter. I wouldn’t do this without first testing the traffic a blog can send your way. Finally, the physical product (an evergreen journal) that I’m giving away is part of a series so I’m counting on those who get the freebie to likely buy other journals from my collection.
Question: Very smart! So let’s get into niche research because this is where a lot of people struggle. We’ve talked about how speaking with friends, family and even people online about their passions and interests is a great way to come up with new niche ideas, but do you have any other tips that will help people zero in on profitable niches?
Answer: Yes, ma’am! The AHA moment actually came after a call with you. LOL
You mentioned how you and Kellie had found a lot of hot niches on Etsy that could be converted to KDP books. And you were right! This is undoubtedly one of the easiest ways to uncover hot-selling printables that can easily transfer to KDP low content books.
While printables aren’t exactly the same as low content books, the audience is! And the way Etsy is designed, it literally tells you what people are most interested in.
This includes: What is in people’s shopping carts:
When you visit Etsy, you can see what people are actively buying based on the little blurb that appears beneath products “xx people have this in their shopping carts”.
This was a tremendous help in narrowing down a handful of niches that deserved my attention. In fact, researching hot sellers on Etsy and Shopify, specifically focusing on printables is how I uncovered many of my top selling niches. These are the niches that make up the bulk of my sales. I also found a couple of under-serviced niches this way and I’m selling hundreds of journals a day in those markets.
I mentioned searching for hot selling printables specifically because if you focus your research on the kind of journals that are selling on Etsy, rather than printables, you’ll find a lot of custom or handmade leather-bound fancy journals and those buyers aren’t necessarily going to buy a basic bound book from Amazon. Yet printable buyers will gladly buy our low content books because they’re only alternative is to print out the pages and bind them on their own.
Researching printables on Etsy & Shopify also helped me get a clear snapshot of the kind of brand imaging that works well because until then I was pretty confused about how to create a stand-out identity on Amazon.
I also realized that people who buy journals want to buy from other journal-writers because they feel that someone who actively uses journals will know what they want. So this became part of my brand – an avid journaler who just wanted to create things to help people get organized, stay on track or boost their creativity (depending on my niche, my Amazon bio changes a bit).
Etsy’s Popular Printable Listing Directory:
Check out the section on Etsy that reveals the top selling printables and you’ll find tons of hot niche markets for low content publishing on Amazon.
You can find that page here: https://www.etsy.com/ca/market/popular_printables
Question: I know that no one wants to reveal their top selling niches, but is there anything you could add in terms of what kind of markets you are making the most money with?
Answer: I mainly focus on 2 main markets: health & wealth because they’re evergreen and people will always be hungry for journals and planners in those niches.
So I dig into these niches on a weekly basis and focus on selling journals that cater to one specific segment of that market at a time. I don’t sell journals that are all-in-one as much as I do when the planners are designed to serve a very specific problem people are having. The only exception has been life planners which can encompass many different things. Those are always hot sellers.
So for example, rather than try to sell a journal that’s focused on all things pet related, create (or buy rights to) a journal specifically for documenting a dog’s health, medication, vaccinations, grooming appointments, etc. One specific pet means you’re targeting one specific pet owner. It’s all about strict and narrow targeting.
When I see people complaining that they aren’t making money selling journals, I wonder if they’re even targeting a market rather than throwing up a generic cover and expecting a large audience to want it.
If your journal is nothing more than a flowery cover and lined pages, who exactly is your audience? Are there enough people who are willing to buy a journal simply because it has flowers? That’s not targeted whatsoever.
If you focus on catering to a specific segment of a market and show those buyers that you’re “one of them”, and that you understand what they want, you won’t need 1000 journals to make $1000’s of dollars. You’ll outsell those bulk uploaders easily.
Question: And from your research on Etsy and Shopify, what kind of evergreen planners are selling?
Answer: There are tons, but 2 of my favorite niches (aside from health & wealth and these still fall into the wealth category to some degree) are:
Business related journals, specifically start-up / new entrepreneurs who are floundering around trying to build a business or make some extra money. This could include things like business planning, blog management, expense trackers but also job hunting or career change journals.
Project Management is also a huge one. It just made sense to create journals for programmers since that’s what I do, but I went down the rabbit hole with project management style planners and I’m so glad I did because they sell so easily.
A lot of us use online task managers to keep track of our day-to-day but we also like jotting down notes the “old fashioned way”, so I knew there was already an audience for this. Etsy confirmed it. You’ll see a lot of productivity planners selling and they’re geared towards ONE specific task like time management or documenting hours spent freelancing.
Question: So back to the word you hate most: marketing. What about social marketing? Does that fit into your strategy?
Answer: The thought of spending hours a day promoting my books on social media platforms is exhausting but yes, I’ve been playing around with one (and only one) because I don’t have enough hours in the day.
I decided on Pinterest since it’s not only one of the easiest communities to get involved in, but it drives a ton of traffic to my landing pages quickly (and to my author pages on Amazon). People go to Pinterest for creative ideas and inspiration, but they’re also more likely to buy something compared to twitter users. Plus I can easily outsource this without spending money on a full-time VA.
Here’s what I do:
I create a tall graphic of every journal I create, or in most cases, buy. This is usually a snapshot of every interior page featured in my journal. Creating Pinterest images is easy using https://www.canva.com
So if my journal is 120 pages long, chances are there’s about 20 different layouts in that book. I create Pinterest graphics of every layout and pin them separately with links to Booklinker, or a landing page geared specifically towards that audience.
You can open your journal in PDF format and zoom out until you can see the full layout, take a screenshot and then drop it into Canva where you can add extra text or elements that will capture attention. I tend to highlight the benefits of using my journals rather than the features.
For example, I wouldn’t add “120 Pages!” to the graphic. Instead, I’d add “Triple Your Productivity” or “Simplify Your Life”.
I then create a global Amazon link using https://www.booklinker.net/
As I’ve mentioned before, this is a really cool tool that features all of the links to different Amazon stores based on a customer’s location.
I then link my pins a few different ways – the same system I use when advertising in newsletters, including:
Direct to my Author Central Profile Page
I do equal linking to my author central page as I do a landing page, but that’s only recently. Up until then, I simply linked to the journal on Amazon and saw a ton of traffic quickly but because I wanted more control and to be able to reach out to customer’s later on, I also include landing page links.
I decided to start building mailing lists of people who are interested in my journals by directing traffic from Pinterest to a squeeze page that captures a name & email address. I also feature a “bribe” or giveaway to entice people to subscribe. Since my books are physical products on Amazon, it would cost too much to give those away, so I started creating a digital version of some of my popular journals.
Resource: I use Mailer Lite to build my list. It’s cheaper than a lot of other providers, easy to use and they offer a free account to test things out so you don’t have to invest in anything until you see traction. And I use Thrive Architect to create my landing pages since it’s really easy to use, affordable and I can create them directly within one WP blog.
Now here’s something to consider if you want to run a giveaway in either a newsletter ad or through Pinterest on your landing page: you need to make sure your digital planner isn’t exactly the same as your physical product.
You want people who use your digital planner to buy your physical journal, so make sure there’s something different about the two products. I tend to create a digital journal that’s only 10 pages long (a typical printable spread), whereas my physical books are always 100-120.
Since I had no idea how to create an interactive version of my journal, I hired a guy on Upwork and another one from Fiverr to do it for me. It cost me around $25-50 to get this done and it’s really paid off.
Question: Do you use any paid advertising on Pinterest or do you just pin your journal pages/layouts?
Answer: I started to see traffic almost immediately after just pinning my journal pages, linking them to Amazon and adding tags. However, recently I started to spend a bit of money promoting my pins, but only the ones that lead to a landing page so I can follow-up with a lead later on. And I’ve yet to spend more than $50 in a week because I’m new to Pinterest marketing and am still learning as I go.
Tip: Start off with small spends. Set a strict budget while you play around with promoted pins and get a feel for how it works. You’ll also have to turn your Pinterest account into a business one in order to use their paid advertising options. Also, start off with only 4-5 boards. Don’t bog down your page. Create a board for every niche you’re in and pin your layouts in there. Then create one board that’s used to pin other people’s journals. This will encourage people to re-pin yours.
Question: What about Amazon ads (AMS)? Have you done anything with that platform?
Answer: No, I haven’t even thought about Amazon ads (AMS) yet, but I should invest a bit of my income into it soon. Perhaps we can have another discussion once I get those campaigns off the ground! I do understand the importance of reinvesting a percentage of my profits into my business and because of how profitable low content publishing has been for me, I want to do everything I can to keep boosting my book sales, so that’ll end up on my to do list sometime soon.
Question: Awesome! Speaking of Amazon: Do you have any other tips on how to make low content books stand out without advertising?
Answer: If you can manage to get a few reviews for some of your low content books it’ll be easier to stand out from the crowd. People are far more likely to purchase books with positive reviews than they are to buy books that don’t have any feedback. Social proof is everything! While I don’t encourage buying reviews from providers on places like Fiverr, I’ve managed to get reviews just by asking my own circle of friends and family to buy a copy and leave feedback.
You only need 1-2 reviews on a handful of books (per pen name) so that people see some stars when they’re scrolling your Author Central page.
Another way I’ve boosted reviews is by offering a giveaway, but this was only possible once I had a small mailing list using the strategies I’ve just mentioned: landing pages and Pinterest.
Once I got a handful of subscribers, I ran a simple, internal giveaway, gifting a few copies in exchange for a review. To be honest, I had less than 100 subscribers at the time and basically offered a free copy of a journal to everyone LOL. Only 20-something took me up on it, but most of those people took the time to post reviews, so not bad for the cost of ordering a few copies of my journals.
I just made sure to position the giveaway as my offering a free copy in exchange for honest feedback and it worked out great. I was clear with what I wanted from them but at the same time, didn’t force it. And yeah, I saw an immediate boost in sales for the journals that had at least 1 4 or 5-star review. Again, they really stand out in the marketplace when potential customers are scrolling on through.
Question: I’ve done the same thing for my romance books so I know the power of a review and the effect it can have on sales. Great tip! Now let’s talk about keywords. Can you share anything about your keyword research strategy?
Answer: Another one of my least favorite topics! 😉
You’ll hear how keywords are the lifeblood of every successful low content book, but honestly I haven’t spent a lot of time on finding keywords because the best ones for my books are usually quite obvious.
I do however expand on foundational keywords and I also use a simple system to ensure I’m covering my bases.
Coming up with 5-6 seed keywords. These are the obvious choices, the ones I would personally type into Amazon if searching for a journal like mine.
Quickly expand on those keywords. I use a couple tools to find alternative keywords I hadn’t thought about, but more importantly to gauge the profitability of a niche and see what the competition is doing. I will say that people should choose 1-2 tools at most and stick with those. I hear about people using 10 different tools and processes for publishing low content books and I can’t see how that doesn’t slow them down. They’re complicating the process when it doesn’t have to be that difficult.
Just use the AMZ Suggestion Expander (Chrome plugin) and then run your keyword strings into Google as well. Scroll down to the bottom of the search results page and you’ll see alternative suggestions. That’s all you need to do.
Think about it: if a keyword phrase is searched enough to where it should be included in your Amazon KDP listing, it’ll show up in one of those two places because they’re the 2 biggest search engines online! People love to make it out like they’ve found some golden keyword phrase that’s responsible for 100% of their book sales. Well take it from a guy who spends less than an hour on keyword research a week, I call BS on that.
Secret Weapon: KDP Rocket
I definitely plan to use KDP Rocket once they update so that it focuses more on print books. It’ll become my one and only resource for keyword research. Again, choose 1-2 tools and stick to those. The new version of KDP Rocket will be a game changer for low content publishers who don’t know how to find categories and keywords, so I highly recommend grabbing a copy when the new update rolls out.
Question: When it comes to keywords, is there anything people should avoid other than the obvious ones like KDP, Amazon, author names, free, etc?
Answer: I don’t include any physical descriptors in my keyword boxes. No one cares if it’s a 100 page journal or a 120 page journal, so don’t waste your valuable keyword space using these terms.
Instead, think about how your journal benefits someone and include those kinds of keywords in your listing. Things like: get organized, life planner, time management, boost productivity, etc. And don’t repeat your keywords. Ever.
To save time, I create a keyword swipe file so that I can quickly copy & paste keywords for each journal and then just change them up to suit the niche. This is part of my system and it’s the reason I’m able to not only publish regularly, but keep a pulse on what’s selling.
I don’t use any form of automation to do this, despite being a coder. Honestly, manually uploading my books and filling out the forms and description boxes myself ensures I’m ticking off all the important boxes and I just prefer to do that all myself. Besides, Amazon isn’t a fan of automated uploaders and my account is far too valuable to risk.
Question: What are your thoughts on the importance of book descriptions?
Answer: Book Descriptions are REALLY important. I can’t stress this enough because I see so many people overlook them which makes it so easy for someone (like me!) to swoop in and swipe their customers. Mwwahaha. 😉
Your book description is where you can really highlight the benefits of your journal. Use bullet point lists to make important points stand out.
Also keep in mind that when you write up your journal’s description during the KDP publishing phase, the text will all be one big paragraph even if you think you’ve separated it during publishing. It still ends up a mangled mess after it’s approved so you’ll want to use Author Central to fix up the description once it’s published. This includes adding those bullet points I mentioned, but also using bold text to highlight important elements of your listing. It’ll make all the difference.
Using this journal as an example, you can see how injecting HTML into your listing helps it stand out.
Click Here to find out what HTML is accepted by Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
The “Look Inside” feature is also really important, though I don’t think we have a lot of control over how much of the book is shown to potential buyers. I could be wrong about that, though. Still, people use the look inside feature to preview the interiors and in many cases to verify that it’s NOT just a lined journal. It’ll take a few days after your journal has been approved for the Look Inside feature to appear.
Note: The Look Inside feature isn’t available to those on mobile devices, however it’s widely used by on-site shoppers who want to check out your interior before buying.
Tom did a great job at writing an article that covers all things relating to Amazon KDP and SEO which you can find here. Even though the article focuses on Kindle books, you can glean some really useful tips that apply to print books as well.
Question: So, you’ve mentioned how you’ve created a system that helps you upload books, keep track of sales and boost productivity. Can you tell us a little more about that?
Answer: You bet! Okay, so my system looks something like this:
Cover Design: Since I’m outsourcing the bulk of this, my task involves coming up with titles, sub-titles and creating a description for the graphic designers. I send them a PDF every Monday with a listing of the type of covers I want. I also tend to spend time finding stock photos I like just because I’ve researched the niches and can’t expect my designers to know what sort of graphics will resonate with my audience.
Write up my book descriptions and create a keyword swipe file. I spend roughly 2 hours doing this every week. I re-use a lot of the book descriptions and then just customize them as needed. Same with keywords (unless it’s a really different niche, of course, but by now I have tons of keyword swipe files so I can usually draw from those and save myself time.)
Customize the interiors I’ve purchased. I don’t design any of my own interiors, nor do I plan to. My focus is uncovering hot niches and coming up with ways to market my books. However, I do customize the interiors a bit before publishing. This takes me anywhere from 1-2 hours, depending on how much I change up the headlines, add in sub-headlines or graphics, and other text areas.
Niche Research! I usually do this on my lunch break (I’m still a full-time coder, remember!) and a bit in the evenings. I spend most of my time browsing Pinterest, Shopify and Etsy. Those are the 3 online hot spots I use to uncover profitable niches.
Publish! I dedicate an entire afternoon to publishing and since I only work Mon-Thur it works out for me. I use Google Chrome to upload my journals and speed things up by opening 10-15 tabs at once and pre-loading the content while I wait for others to process.
Weekends are off limits for the most part. That’s family time and I’ve learned over the years that if I don’t force myself to get away from work I’ll end up burned out and my creativity will suffer. As a programmer, I need to be fresh come Monday morning so Saturday & Sunday is all about downtime. Although I can’t seem to stop thinking about new niches! LOL
Question: You’ve mentioned Author Central during our conversation, yet there are so many people not taking advantage of it. Care to share your thoughts on how Author Central plays a role in increasing visibility?
Answer: Yeah, people shouldn’t make the mistake of overlooking the importance of Author Central or the many benefits you get from using it. I mean, Amazon is giving you prime real estate on their website. Why wouldn’t you use it?
I think for the most part the people who aren’t bothering with Author Central are those who are focused more on quality over quantity and they can’t be bothered to create an actual brand. That’s not my style. I know just how powerful creating a brand of high-quality journals is. People will buy again and again because they know what to expect. Your brand reassures them.
Also, I’m currently having a video created that will highlight some of the interiors/journals I sell and I’m only able to feature that by uploading it via Author Central.
I also use my Author Central link in newsletters as well. When you create an Author Central account on Amazon they give you the option of reserving a username that’ll generate a memorable link that will direct people to all of your books. Example: amazon.com/author/keyword-here
Take advantage of this option by reserving usernames for all of your main pen names. It’ll be easier for buyers to remember, but you can also feature them on your Pinterest boards. Also, you can claim multiple pen names on just one Author Central account which makes it easier to manage. And all those pen names will remain independent so no one can link them.
Same goes for using the different sections associated with your book description. Filling out things like “From the Author” allows you to incorporate additional keywords, but it also serves as a way to connect with your customer by highlighting the reasons why your journal will help them, or how carefully you crafted it so that it provides all the important segments they’re looking for.
About the Author is another great place to connect with your reader. You can extend your bio intro and of course, incorporate additional keywords. Every section matters!
Question: You mentioned quality over quantity. There seems to be 2 camps when it comes to low content publishing: those who focus on uploading thousands of journals and planners, and those who spend more time building their brand and in turn, publish fewer books. What are your thoughts about that?
Answer: Quality over quantity is a good question. Low Content Mastery taught me that quality should be my main priority and it has been (and always will be), but quantity is also important.
I started off publishing simple lined journals but I couldn’t get my sales up to where I wanted them to be doing that. It wasn’t until I started publishing higher-quality interiors that are geared towards very specific users that I saw my income skyrocket.
I cringe when I see people teaching others to focus on quantity over all else. Ask those people who have 1000+ journals that are nothing but lined interiors and sloppy covers just how much money they’re making.
I’d rather have 200 hot selling journals than 1000 duds, right? Anyone would! So create the kind of journals YOU would buy. Quality matters. Invest in high-quality interiors. Hire a cover designer. Write those detailed book descriptions. Take the time to set up your Author Central account.
Don’t just publish 1000 journals and think you’re going to join the 5-figure monthly club because you’re only setting yourself up for disappointment. Instead, create a stand out brand.
Yes, it’ll take time and effort. But would an extra $5,000 a month make it worth your while? Focus on building a long-term business in low content publishing. One that you’re proud of. The money will follow.
Question: I absolutely agree. My brand has been the only differing factor between what I’m doing and my top competitor because everything’s been done before. Your brand is key in setting you apart. So, before we sign off, do you have any last-minute tips for those who are struggling to gain traction on Amazon KDP?
Answer: Some of the best advice I got was that I should focus on catering to lifestyles. People are passionate about things that affect them, are protective over people that matter to them, and are excited by anything that represents a very personal part of their life.
Following this advice led me to finding niches where people will gladly pay money for products that highlight or represent who they are, what they stand for, and what they’re all about. This includes politics and religion. I don’t shy away from any topic!
Kate, you got that ball rolling when you told me to think about the kind of T-shirts people buy. They wear them proudly to make a statement, to tell the world “I believe in fill-in-the-bank”. Journals are yet another creative outlet and so covers should speak loud & clear to your audience. And so should your brand.
Here are a few other things that have helped me.
Stick with 1-2 book sizes and don’t try not to go over 150 pages:
I rarely go over 120 pages because they’re hard to write in if they end up too thick due to not having the option to publish spiral books through Amazon.
Create a Better Version Than Anyone Else
I take the journals I buy from sites like Profitable Journals, and I customize them so that they are specifically focused on ONE target audience at a time. I don’t do well with generic journals so even the ones in huge niches like wedding planning that I buy have to be customized somehow.
I had to learn the basics of PowerPoint to do this since I mainly buy interiors from PP designers. It took me a few days to figure out how to do some simple customizations, but that was all I needed to learn.
In fact, I don’t really customize the tables or styles of layouts that much at all. I focus on injecting text-based content & niche-specific graphics into the journals that apply to the people I’m targeting. People want journals that are proven to be designed just for them and that make sense for what they’re hoping to accomplish.
Create Killer Covers
A picture is worth a thousand words, right? When it comes to selling a ton of low content books on Amazon, covers are THE most important thing because they’re what people see first when scrolling through search results.
You need to use vibrant colors that pop. Don’t create plain covers that feature only text. Add some kind of element to the cover and make sure you feature really crisp and clear typography.
2 huge mistakes people make: They use Canva or PikMonkey to create their covers or worse, Amazon’s cover creator. How professional do those covers really look? And how unique could they possibly be? It’s the same reason I use 2 different graphic designers. I want variety, originality. I need my covers to look different for each pen name I publish under.
I also never re-purpose covers. I don’t create covers in different colors either, even when one is selling hundreds of copies a week. Instead, I create entirely new covers for the same niche. That way I don’t confuse my audience. Give people too many options and they’ll choose none.
The second mistake that I’ve seen people make is they expect the graphic artist to know what is actively selling in the niche. They’re artists and they’ll be able to create an awesome cover, sure, but will it include the elements or the look & feel that buyers will be drawn to?
It’s your job to create an overview of the covers you are interested in outsourcing. Give them a detailed spec sheet and then let them get to work.
Include Free Bonuses
So one thing I did to continue building a buyers list was to include a free digital bonus offer that’s featured in my Amazon bios.
I want to keep my pen names secret so I can’t get into too much detail but I followed the marketing strategy of traditionally published authors who include a link to their mailing list in their Author Central bio page.
This works really well if you create a different landing page for every main niche you’re in so that when someone makes the jump from your Amazon book page to your opt-in form page, the transition is seamless and they aren’t confused by some weird bonus offer that doesn’t align with the journals you publish under that name.
Free bonuses are really easy to create. I just offer a 1-page printable that’s relevant to the topic of the niche I’m targeting. It’s like an auxiliary component they get for free just for subscribing. It isn’t anything that’s repeated in my actual journal but an extra resource. Offering something extra just helps me stand out a bit more.
I know that yearly planners are hot sellers (I sell a TON of them), but I tend to stay away from anything that includes specific dates. I don’t want to have to go back in and edit books or remove anything once they become outdated.
Instead, I publish yearly planners that let people fill in the month and year themselves. Make your publishing life easier by staying away from date-based templates on Amazon. Set and forget. We want this to be as passive an income source as possible and we’re already busy enough uploading, figuring out covers, etc.
Tip: Focus on life management journals. They’re some of my best sellers.
Question: Fantastic tips, Jake! Thank you so much for sharing some of your best tips and strategies with us. So, what is your plan moving forward outside of AMS, contacting YouTubers and securing ad space on blogs and in newsletters?
Answer: Next on my list? Spiral bound books. I want to start publishing through Lulu so that I can offer a variety of print options and widen my outreach. I’ll always focus primarily on Amazon KDP because it’s easier, but by creating a landing page for my top selling books with links to both marketplaces, I’ll give people the flexibility of choosing what kind of binding they want. Plus it doesn’t cost anything to publish through Lulu so why not?
I also want to expand my team. Right now I have 2 graphic designers working on creating covers for my journals. No matter what people tell you, you don’t have to invest a fortune in covers, but they definitely have to stand out. Going forward, I want to hire someone to customize the interiors I purchase from you guys as well.
Then there’s Pinterest which I’m now a strong believer of! LOL Because of the success I’m seeing from it, my plan is to continue focusing on continue to grow that audience for both my low content books and other offers I’m working on that align with that industry.
Then I am going to take your printable course and expand into creating a blog and selling printables from that vs Etsy since I can price those higher. I’m seeing printables selling for up to $200 per binder set! I’m excited to branch out into printables soon, so hurry up and get that out there, will ya? 😉
Question: Soon! Okay, Jake, I’ve taken enough of your time. Leave us with some last-minute takeaways and we’re outta here! <3
Answer: LOL, It’s been a real pleasure. I owe you a huge thank you for introducing me to low content publishing and helping me along. So anytime!
Take-aways? Here are a few that come to mind:
Lined Journals = Zzz
Lined journals are a dime a dozen. People can buy them for less than $5 at local shops, so I stay away from publishing them. The key is to stand out and you can’t do that with lined journals. Even an outstanding cover won’t help unless it’s something people can’t find anywhere else which means finding untapped niches and good luck with that!
All of my top selling journals have been ones that feature detailed interiors. It’s not easy finding quality interiors that come with commercial rights so please, all you creative geniuses out there, keep those coming!
Don’t Be Afraid of Color
Yeah, color journals cost more to print but certain niches demand them. Don’t be afraid to publish a few journals that are in color.
Get on Pinterest! If you don’t have a Pinterest account, go set up one up right now. Don’t put it off because it’s been instrumental in helping me boost sales quickly and at no (or very little) cost.
That’s all I’ve got for now! 🙂